"I run all the studios," 38-year-old Lew Wasserman boasted in 1951 when turning down an offer to run MGM. Indeed, he did. As president of MCA, the most powerful talent agency of its time, Wasserman gained unprecedented artistic and financial clout for Hollywood's top stars, hastening the end of the studio system. Not that he did it out of the goodness of his heart. The canny, ruthless Wasserman was famous for inventing new ways to increase MCA's percentage, most notably by bundling clients into packages the agency produced for the burgeoning television market--a glaring conflict of interest that finally prompted a Justice Department investigation. Veteran movie journalist Dennis McDougal (author of Fatal Subtraction: The Inside Story of Buchwald v. Paramount) uses Wasserman's career as a case study in how the entertainment industry has changed over the course of the 20th century. He chronicles MCA's evolution from a band-booking business in wide-open Jazz Age Chicago (where persistent rumors about the company's Mob ties began) to a postwar movie and TV powerhouse to a Japanese-owned subsidiary in the 1990s. Seamlessly blending biography, business reporting, and juicy celebrity anecdotes, this is first-rate showbiz muckraking. --Wendy Smith
The reviewer of the Boston Globe said point blank: "Over the years, I've read hundreds of books on Hollywood and the movie business, and this one is right at the top." As the elusive, tyrannical head of the Music Corporation of America (MCA) until the 1990s, Lew Wasserman was the most powerful and feared man in show business for more than half a century. His career spanned the entire history of the movies, from the silent era to the present, and he was guru to Alfred Hitchcock, Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, and Jimmy Stewart, and to a new generation of filmmakers beginning with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. For more than four years, Dennis McDougal interviewed over 350 people who knew the man with the giant dark horn-rimmed glasses-colleagues, relatives, rivals-and drew on tens of thousands of pages of documents to produce this extraordinary and first-ever portrait of a legend and his times, a book that the New York Times Book Review called "thoroughly reported and engrossing" and that the Daily News called, simply, "a bombshell."
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